While our meeting with Krasnodar may have been inconsequential on paper, for Tino Anjorin it was the culmination of a childhood dream as the youngster made his first Chelsea start, and he reflected afterwards on a special night at Stamford Bridge…
The last time the Blues came through a Champions League group stage unbeaten was 2014, just weeks after Dorset-born Anjorin had entered his teenage years. Fast forward to the end of 2020 and the 19-year-old was making his full debut on the big stage, supporting Kai Havertz and Tammy Abraham in a youthful, vibrant attack.
Anjorin made his League Cup debut against Grimsby Town 15 months ago and his Premier League bow back in March, coming off the bench in our final outing before the football shutdown, but this was his first appearance from the off under the trusting Frank Lampard.
He started on the left of the three-pronged attack and put in a lively performance in front of a small home crowd, which included a limited group of family members, the proudest onlookers in west London without doubt.
‘It’s a special night for me and my family, especially with the fans back now as well,’ the boyhood Blue said shortly after the final whistle. ‘To be able to have them here for my full debut was just amazing.
‘My family were here as well. We had about five tickets so everyone was buzzing! I had loads of people asking for tickets but obviously because of Covid-19 they can’t all come so I had to select a few but they were all delighted.’
While initially suspecting he may be a substitute, Anjorin revealed how he was informed of his imminent start in training the day before the game. Even though he has not played much on the left during his rise through the Academy, he was pleased with his adaptation to the responsibilities of the role.
‘I got called in for training so I had some suspicions but at first I thought I’d be on the bench,’ he explained. ‘When we put the team out in training, he [Lampard] said “Tino, left wing” and that’s when I was like “am I starting?” After that, Frank came up to me and asked if I was excited for my debut!
‘It was different and it took me a while to get used to the position,’ he said of playing wide on the left. ‘I thought on the ball I did well and off the ball I could have been a bit better but obviously that’s just me having not played there very often. It’s a performance I can definitely improve on.’
Lampard hailed ‘a really good performance’ from his young midfielder and also referenced his previous struggles with coming off early in games due to cramp issues. However, after a number of recent runouts, Anjorin declared himself in good physical condition and hopes those growing pains are behind him.
‘I’m feeling the fittest I’ve ever been,’ he stated. ‘I’ve got a few 90 minutes in already this season.
'To come off the back of 90 minutes three days ago and then be able to play 80 minutes today shows that but I just have to go back now and work even harder than I did before.’
With Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi ruled out for a fortnight, it might not be long before the talented Tino is adding more minutes to his senior career.